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Africans May Be Noticing Effects of Climate Change

by Magali Rheault

Many perceive warmer weather, more difficulty in finding water

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Climate change is a hot issue. It's a reality the international community must address as a report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged earlier this year. Representatives from around the world are meeting in Bali this week and next week at the 2007 UN Climate Change Conference, which provides a forum for national governments to plan for deep and concerted efforts to tackle such issues.

Climate change is anticipated to harshly affect agricultural production and food security in Africa. The IPCC reports that, as the agricultural sector represents a significant share of GDP in many countries in the region, projected reductions in yield are likely to increase competition for land, food, and work. In 2007, Gallup asked respondents in 12 sub-Saharan countries questions that touch on the topic of climate change. In most surveyed countries (except for Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), majorities of respondents say the weather is getting warmer. Majorities of respondents in most countries also believe that their lives will get harder if the climate changes, and perceive more difficulty in finding water.

Perceptions that the weather is getting warmer range from 32% in Zambia to 93% in Burkina Faso; the regional median for all countries surveyed is 69%. Poll results also show that perceptions that life will be harder if the climate changes range from 41% in Zambia to 80% in Burkina Faso; the regional median is 63%.

A regional median of 56% of respondents agree that water is getting harder to find, and such views range from 38% in Zambia to 85% in Burkina Faso. When asked whether deserts are getting bigger, a median of 52% of respondents in the countries surveyed agree. Such perceptions range from 15% in Zambia to 86% in Burkina Faso.

It's important to note that in many countries, substantial percentages of respondents, especially on the issue of desertification, tell Gallup they don't know. For example, 57% of Zambians and 44% of Zimbabweans say they don't know whether deserts are getting bigger. Most countries in the Gallup analysis lie outside the Sahel, the narrow band that stretches from west to east between the Sahara to the north and the savannas to the south, which may explain why significant percentages of respondents do not have an opinion. However, the large majorities of respondents in Burkina Faso, which lies in the Sahel, suggest that Burkinabe may be noticing the effects of climate change and may be indicative of what residents in the other Sahelian countries are also noticing.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, each in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe throughout 2007. For results based on a total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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